Anti-war protests sweep Ukraine
Aug. 5 — Women gather in the dozens to block major highways, carrying signs and banners reading “Save our boys” and “Stop the slaughter.”
Protesters shout down politicians spouting pro-war rhetoric, telling them to “Go fight your own war.”
Young men burn their draft cards, amidst reports of hundreds of soldiers surrendering or deserting to a neighboring country.
Is it a scene from a college town in the U.S. during the 1960s?
No. It’s happening today, in hundreds of cities and villages across Ukraine.
You won’t see it in the corporate media. But people in western, central and even embattled eastern Ukraine are taking to the streets — with women of all ages in the lead — to oppose the new “mobilization law” (military draft) enacted July 22 by the far-right junta of oligarchs, neoliberal politicians and fascists in Kiev.
In the town of Bogorodchany in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, protesters broke into the military registration office and burned draft documents, saying they would not allow their sons to be used as “cannon fodder.”
In Volovka, angry villagers confronted the mayor and military commissioner with a petition to Ukraine President Peter Poroshenko demanding the withdrawal of 50 draft cards to local residents. When no response was received, people blocked the roads and 10 were arrested.
In Novoselytsya in Chernivtsi region, women beat down a far-right politician who tried to break up their anti-draft protest outside a military recruitment office.
Actions like these are taking place daily from the suburbs of the capital, Kiev, to Lviv on the Polish border and from Transcarpathia to the Black Sea.
Videos of some protests, with English-language transcripts, can be viewed at slavyangrad.org and ukraineantifascistsolidarity.wordpress.com.
The imposition of a mandatory 1.5 percent “war tax” on workers’ wages went into effect Aug. 1, further fueling the flames.
The regime’s response to the mass anti-war sentiment? Repression.
Anton Gerashenko, an official of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, announced that police will begin arresting people who agitate against the war on social media. (Navigator, July 29)
Resistance in primarily Russian-speaking southeastern cities like Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk has been driven underground by relentless repression from Kiev’s official political police, the SBU, and its unofficial death squads, the neo-Nazi gangs.
In these cities and Odessa — where at least 48 people were massacred by the fascists on May 2 — activists have been imprisoned, “disappeared” or forced to flee for their lives to liberated areas like the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics or Crimea, now an autonomous region of the Russian Federation.
Activists living in exile in Simferopol, Crimea, have established a Support Center for Antifascists in Ukraine to build solidarity for political prisoners, share information and help coordinate underground political activity.
The Support Center reported that young men in Kharkov are being rounded up off the streets and forcibly inducted into the brutal war against the Donbass mining region of Donetsk and Lugansk, where people voted overwhelmingly May 11 for independence from the U.S.-backed coup regime.
Mass resistance to the coup, which manifested in large demonstrations last spring, is still there, simmering just below the surface.
But in the West — which the junta considers its base of support — the spreading anti-war movement is causing alarm.
Media openly call for genocide in Donbass
The junta and its backers in Washington were counting on a quick victory over the volunteer people’s militias in Donbass, especially after the fraudulent election of oligarch Peter Poroshenko as president to “legitimize” the coup.
Instead, they were met with a powerful popular resistance, rooted in Soviet-era Ukraine’s deep anti-fascist sentiment, working-class traditions and partisan military tactics.
Several military offensives by the regime — each with more and more powerful weapons, resulting in greater casualties for both civilians and combatants — have failed to crush the resistance, despite horrific carnage by the Ukrainian military targeting homes, schools and hospitals in Donbass.
Lugansk, the besieged capital city of the Lugansk People’s Republic, declared a humanitarian catastrophe on Aug. 5. More than 250,000 people seeking to leave to take refuge in Russia are unable to escape the city, the people’s government reported, as so-called “humanitarian corridors” established by the Ukrainian military have actually been used for target practice. Tens of thousands in the city are without water, food or electricity. (RT.com)
Ukraine continues to lash out at civilians in the suburbs of Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk People’s Republic, as it unsuccessfully tries to blockade the city. Seventeen people, including three children, were killed by shelling in the town of Gorlovka on July 29, while the same day five seniors were killed when a retirement home was shelled in Lugansk.
Eighteen civilians were reported killed in the Donetsk town of Dokuchayevsk Aug. 4.
Ukraine continues to drop white phosphorous bombs, prohibited by international law, most recently in the town of Makeyevka near Donetsk city. (ITAR-TASS, July 30)
At the end of July, the United Nations reported 1,129 people killed and 3,500 wounded in Donbass since Kiev’s “Anti-Terrorist Operation” began, with 100,000 people forcibly displaced. But, as even the U.N. admits, these numbers are partial at best, and the real number of civilian casualties is far greater — perhaps more than 10,000, according to some reports.
As with the Israeli settler state’s war against the Palestinian people, collective punishment — even genocide — is the junta’s weapon of choice.
That was made crystal clear by pro-Kiev journalist Bogdan Boutkevitch, appearing on Hromadske TV, a network funded in part by the U.S. and the Netherlands:
“Donbass, in general, is not simply a region in a very depressed condition; it has got a whole number of problems, the biggest of which is that it is severely overpopulated with people nobody has any use for.
“If we take, for example, just the Donetsk region, there are approximately 4 million inhabitants, at least 1.5 million of which are superfluous. That’s what I mean: we don’t need to ‘understand’ Donbass. …
“Donbass must be exploited as a resource, which it is. … The most important thing that must be done — no matter how cruel it sounds — is that there is a certain category of people that must be exterminated.” (video and English transcript at slavyangrad.org, Aug. 1)
Pentagon: $ for fascist National Guard
Money to keep the war going is running out as austerity programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund and European Union begin to bite.
The harsh Ukrainian winter is not far off. Having made an anti-Russia alliance with the U.S. and NATO, the new rulers in Kiev no longer have access to cheap fuel on credit.
On July 29, CNN, citing Pentagon sources, reported that the Ukrainian military had fired three ballistic missiles against the Donbass, calling this a “major escalation” in the war.
On Aug. 1, a NATO spokesperson confirmed the Ukrainian use of ballistic missiles to the German newspaper Deutsche Welle. Then on Aug. 2, NATO backtracked, calling it a “communication error.”
Why would the Ukrainian military employ such heavy weaponry against an enemy with limited firepower and no air force or large bases?
Similar questions should be asked about Kiev’s deployment of BUK anti-aircraft batteries in eastern Ukraine in connection with the unravelling propaganda campaign to blame the rebel militias for downing Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 on July 17.
According to intelligence reported by Igor Strelkov, the Donetsk Minister of Defense, at an emergency news conference July 31, Kiev plans to utilize ballistic missiles to hit water treatment facilities in Donetsk and Lugansk, along with a factory in Gorlovka, and unleash toxic chemicals on the civilian population. (slavyangrad.org)
The mass deaths would then be blamed on the rebels, as the junta and the U.S. attempted to do with the Malaysian airliner.
“The idea is so monstrous that it is probably hard to believe, especially for those who haven’t see the bombardment of populated areas by phosphorous bombs, people injured by chemical weapons, howitzers shooting at the city center,” said Strelkov.
It’s in this context that President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against the banking, fuel and defense sectors of Russia July 30, followed two days later by the European Union, after significant arm-twisting by Washington.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has notified Congress that it plans to increase direct funding to the Ukrainian National Guard by $19 million to “equip and train its … troops to conduct various missions.” (Washington Times, Aug. 1)
That comes on top of $23 million already committed by the U.S. to Ukraine’s military.
As Congress and Obama well know, the National Guard is not only the backbone of Ukraine’s terrorist campaign in the southeast — it is composed of neo-Nazis in uniform, culled from the likes of the Right Sector, Maidan Self-Defense and other fascist gangs by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
The brutality and desperation of the Kiev junta and U.S. imperialists increase not only the humanitarian crisis in Donbass, but the danger of an open military confrontation with Russia — whose conquest is the Pentagon and Wall Street’s ultimate goal.